It's that time of year again when costumed kiddies prepare to go door to door in the pursuit of treats.
Halloween can be a lot of fun for the whole family, but for some family pets it can be a frightening and dangerous time. However, with a little bit of forethought and preparation, pets can have a safe "Howleen" too.
Although the sound of knocking on the door or ringing of the bell may not faze some pets, some dogs are more territorial than others. They may find visitors threatening and stressful, in which case Halloween is anything but fun for these animals.
Also, children in costumes can frighten dogs and, in turn, dogs may frighten children. Make sure pets are in a safe and secure room when you answer the door to prevent them from running out, getting hurt and frightening or injuring visitors.
Sometimes a room in the back of the house, with the radio or television left on, is enough to keep these pets feeling safe and secure.
Don't leave dogs unattended outside on Halloween, even if behind a fence. Pranksters may target dogs with eggs and passersby may give dogs harmful treats and candy.
Cats also should be kept indoors during Halloween, especially black ones, since they can fall victim to horrible abuse at this time of year.
The day after Halloween, make it a point to walk dogs while it is still light out, or if released to the yard, do a walk-through inspection first. Dogs may find candy, wrappers or broken eggs on lawns and streets. Make sure pets stay out of harm's way by picking these items up before they have a chance to find them.
Although you may want to include your dog in the festivities, remember that sweets are not healthy for canines. A dog's digestive system is not adapted for sweets and chocolate contains theobromine, which can be harmful and sometimes fatal to dogs. Baking chocolate is especially high in this chemical.
Make sure all tempting treats are out of reach to pets. Use extra precautions when setting down the candy bowl in between costumed visitors so treats don't get consumed by four-legged friends.
Pets are better left at home during trick-or-treat excursions, but if dogs go with trick-or-treaters, keep them on a leash. Also, remember that dogs that may normally walk through the neighborhood when everything is quiet, may not during Halloween. Dogs may be stressed by all the noise, activity or simply the disruption in the normal routine.
Also, if dressing up pets in a costume, supervise them at all times. Make sure costumes fit properly and are not in the way of normal breathing, eyesight or hearing.
Many pet costumes are attached with elastic bands, but if dogs swallow any elastic or decorative items, it can lead to bowel obstructions or choking. Elastic bands accidentally left on pets also can quickly burrow into an animal's skin, causing discomfort or injury.
Be careful about where candles and jack-o'-lanterns are placed. They can easily be knocked over by a dog's wagging tail and either start a fire or cause burns to the dog. A flickering flame also may entice curious cats.
Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He has worked with wildlife and domestic animals for more than 10 years as a veterinary technician, a zoo keeper, and most recently as a zoologist for the Wildlife Conser-vation Society. He welcomes any pet-related questions or story ideas, but please none of a veterinary nature. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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